News Release

Dr. Rebecca Cunningham officially embarks on U of M presidency

Portrait of Cunningham standing outside

Cunningham begins tenure at a time of opportunity and challenges for the U of M and higher ed

In the final milestone of a thorough, public search for the University’s next president, Dr. Rebecca Cunningham officially took office today as the 18th President of the University of Minnesota System.

“I could not be more excited to join this thriving and passionate University community. Like so many Minnesotans, I see myself in the U of M’s ‘Driven to Discover’ spirit and it’s been wonderful to see that spirit in action on our campuses,” said Cunningham. “The Board’s presidential search was an opportunity for Minnesotans to hear from me. Now I want to hear from all of you and that starts with a simple question rooted in discovery: How can we do the greatest good for our students, faculty and staff, for our state, and for our society more broadly in the years ahead? I’m eager to hear many different answers to that question, and to work together to create the next great chapter for the University of Minnesota.”

After the Board selected her to serve in this role at a special meeting in late February, Cunningham began working closely with Interim President Jeff Ettinger, his leadership team, and key contacts throughout the University’s five-campus system to ensure a thoughtful and seamless transition in the President’s Office. Cunningham has been a regular attendee at Board of Regents meetings and other key University events in recent months as she engaged in a detailed onboarding process. This included meeting with and listening to hundreds of people, on U of M campuses and beyond, to hear more about how they see the U of M and what they need from their state’s flagship public research university.

“The past few months have provided wonderful opportunities for President Cunningham to work closely with our outgoing Interim President Jeff Ettinger and meet with many people deeply committed to the U of M to ensure a smooth transition,” said Board of Regents Chair Janie Mayeron. “A new presidency is an opportunity to reintroduce the powerful ways we serve Minnesotans in all aspects of the University’s mission: our teaching, our research and our statewide community engagement. President Cunningham’s distinctive experiences and perspective will help us build on our strengths, address challenges, and advance our mission to benefit Minnesotans and the world.”

Prior to coming to Minnesota, Cunningham served as the vice president for research and innovation at the University of Michigan, where she was responsible for fostering excellence and upholding the institution’s public mission in research, scholarship and creative practice across three campuses and a health system. During her leadership tenure, Cunningham led the design and implementation of the first comprehensive review of the U-M research, scholarship and creative practice enterprise. At the same time, U-M expanded its research volume to a record $1.86 billion annually.

Cunningham was a faculty member in the U-M Schools of Public Health and Medicine, an appointment she held for more than 25 years. She also served in various leadership positions earlier in her career, including associate vice president for research-health sciences, associate chair of emergency medicine, and director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored Injury Prevention Center at U-M. As a researcher, Cunningham has earned continuous federal research funding dating back to the late 1990s as a principal investigator and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

The Board of Regents chose Cunningham following an extensive, nationwide search that engaged thousands of students, faculty and staff in listening sessions and public forums on all five U of M campuses. With input on the position description from community listening sessions, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee evaluated 46 talented applicants, ultimately narrowing the candidate pool for the full Board’s consideration. Three public finalists then embarked on whirlwind tours of the state, participating in a total of 15 public forums and 15 open houses, as well as many other engagements, over a 10-day period, logging more than 2,700 miles across Minnesota to visit each U of M campus. All three candidates then participated in public job interviews with the Board before Cunningham was selected

Though officially the U of M President starting today, the formal inauguration ceremony for President Cunningham will be held on Wednesday, September 18, inside Northrop and outside along the Northrop Mall. Details about inauguration events and the schedule for that day will be provided as they are finalized. Visit for more information. 

Media Contacts

Main Line

University Public Relations

Jake Ricker

University Public Relations